Charlie Jones – Love Form review

Originally published for Notion.

Having worked with the likes of Robert Plant, Page & Plant, Siouxsie Sioux and Goldfrapp, it’s safe to say that Charlie Jones is a much sought after musician, mainly for his bass playing. However, his composing and co-writing on the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss album, Raising Sand, brought about his first Grammy award and appears to have given him the confidence to pursue his own music. His debut album, Love Form, is a perfect example of a record where the music manages to tell a story without having to use any words. In terms of musical creativity, it draws influence from several genres but has a strong jazz feel about it, with Jones’ key influences on the record being drawn from memories of his childhood listening to his father’s jazz and classical records.

The subtleties of the harp and strings, alongside the smooth jazz piano, on album opener ‘The Messenger’ ease you into the record softly before setting off on a journey through time and musical genres; from the cool jazz sounds of the late 1940s to more modern, experimental sounds. Half way through, the record reaches its experimental peak with ‘Phthonos’: a track packed with electronic and futuristic sounds, which is so haunting that it would be fitting as the soundtrack to an alien landing scene in a sci-fi film. ‘Silver’ is probably the softest moment on the record, with the delicacy of the snare and percussion adding an element of calm, but the track still maintains an eeriness that seeps through the whole record. This element of eeriness is prominent on the album’s heavier tracks, like ‘Big Hair’ and ‘Death Hands’, where the drone and guitar distortion really make an impact.

Love Form is a triumph and, although many people may find it difficult to relate to instrumental records, when the music is as powerful and emotive as this, it manages to speak for itself. With an array of well-renowned musicians featuring on the tracks – including Alison Goldfrapp, Portishead and Massive Attack collaborator Johnny Baggot on piano and harpist Ruth Wall, amongst others – it is no surprise that the record is full of depth, diversity and stunning musicianship.

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Charli XCX – True Romance review

Charli XCX - True Romance

Originally published for The List.

Charli XCX – True Romance  (4 stars)

The goth-pop vocalist’s debut combines pop sensibilities with emotional lyrics and electro beats

(Asylum)

Charli XCX‘s journey to pop stardom has been anything but quick. She got her first big break when she was 14, being invited to perform at a warehouse rave in east London, after the host had heard a few of her demos on MySpace, and by 16, she was signed to a major label. Fast forward six years, a series of singles and sessions with numerous producers later and we finally have a debut album. True Romance is packed full of energy, with glittering synths, hip hop beats and big pop choruses.

Working with several different collaborators – from major pop producers like Ariel Reichstadt and Patrik Berger to blog favourites Blood Diamonds and J£zus Millions – has given the album more versatility in terms of sound and pace. Half-way through and you begin to wonder when the album is going to reach a lull: from the dancefloor-ready ‘Take My Hand’ to the anthemic ‘Set Me Free’, each track shows that Charli XCX feels she has a point to prove. Her sultry vocals really shine on tracks like ‘Stay Away’ and ‘How Can I’ where they are not drowned out by the heavy, industrial beats. ‘What I Like’ is a certified pop banger, with its acid house-esque intro, fast-paced vocal delivery and infectious chorus.

While it may not be a pop album in the traditional sense, True Romance combines pop sensibilities with emotional lyrics and electro beats to craft Charli XCX’s signature sound – often dubbed as ‘goth-pop’. It is the album she had to deliver to silence the naysayers who had brushed her off as a ‘Tumblr-wave’ and is up there as one of the best debut albums from a pop star for a number of years.